Young Researcher Days, Part II

Every Sunday, my 10 year-old brother and I tune in toΒ Pinoy Scientist, a radio program hosted by active scientists Dr. Custer, Dr. Guido, and Dr. JD wherein health and environmental issues are discussed and scientific news are tailored for public consumption. I myself love breaking down science for curious little kids, so we usually have a short discussion after the program. Today’s episode especially contained a lot of scientific jargon but I was able to make my brother understand the main topic because… it was exactly the kind of research I worked on in my final year of high school!

Basically, my S&T research groupmates and I made filters out of the nanocomposite of Montmorillonite (MMT), a highly absorptive clay mineral which happens to be abundant in the Philippines, and a biodegradable plastic called Polycaprolactone (PCL). The idea was that adding MMT would make a better heavy metal filter in terms of absorptive power and durability, and of course we had to test that. Here’s our methodology in a nutshell:

  • Varying concentrations of MMT (0%, 5%, 10%) were mixed with PCL, dissolved in dichloromethane, and sonicated.
  • Fibers were made through electrospinning, a process in which both the polymer solution and a spinning metal collector are charged using high voltage electricity so that the solution evenly collects on the surface due to the electric field and dries up to form nanofibers.
  • Small strips were cut from the resulting nanofiber mat and subjected to tensile tests using the Universal Testing Machine
  • Surface morphology was observed using a scanning electron microscope at DLSU (no wonder the guest scientist of today’s episode works there) and their chemical composition were studied through Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. All data were compared across the different concentrations of MMT, of course.
  • Lastly, DotA break after a productive day XD

I started this project as an intern under the University of the Philippines – Diliman’s Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Material Engineering. Thanks to their time and support, I learned some things about mining issues and materials science, I got the chance to contribute to their research, and I was able to conduct mine for free. πŸ˜€


I used to be intimidated by such a daunting task, but the S&T research course made me realize that writing scientific papers is actually pretty enjoyable (except for the pressing deadlines, haha). The best part was successfully explaining the project to the judges during the PSHS Research Fair, and unexpectedly garnering the 4th grand award. πŸ˜€

Needless to say, that PS episode brought back lots of good memories. πŸ™‚

Young researcher days, part I

As part of the PSHS curriculum, we had to undergo courses in science and technology research in our third and fourth year, in which we were tasked to work on real S&T projects. It was something akin to the “investigative projects” I saw in grade school science fairs but a lot more demanding in terms of paper-writing and, well, actual research.

For my third year, I had to design a mock project with two other students. If I remember correctly, it was our prerogative as a group how far we would take it, but the design had to be elaborate. We were introduced to different methods of statistical analysis and project planning in class, as well as how to write and present papers. Being interested in blue roses (my favorite flower, for it symbolizes rarity and being out of someone’s league, haha) at that time for their color, I raised the possibility of focusing on it for our research topic.


The pigmentation may be artificial, but seeing or being given this flower makes me happy (just like the ongoing relationships in my mind, haha)

Here it is, in a nutshell: Delphinidin, the anthocyanidin (plant pigment) that gives a blue rose its alluring and vibrant color, is a potent source of antioxidants. Previous researches have found that antioxidants may reduce the rate of angiogenesis (blood vessel formation) that feed malignant tumors. Since the skin of an eggplant (Solanum melongena) is an easily available source of delphinidin, we thought of extracting it from eggplants with the deepest violet color (standardized using hexadecimal color codes), testing it on lab mice introduced with skin cancer as a bioassay, and measuring its effectiveness as an angiogenesis-inhibitor. Our problem was that all we could do was design the project due to a lack of resources. We couldn’t contact some agency and ask them to allow three clueless kids to do experiments that deal with pigment extraction and cancer cells; the farthest we got was a consultation from a professor in UP Bio department, if my memory serves me right.


Who would’ve thought that a flower I love and a vegetable I hate would have something in awesome in common?

So for my final year, I made sure to do a project with a much better design and acquire the necessary resources to bring it to fruition. After all, it would be the culmination of my high school life — the legacy I leave as a PSHS student.

TL;DR: High school life

Caveat: I shall do my best to leave out drama since I want this to be a semi-professional blog. But since half of that stage had caused quite an emotional stir, at the very least the dramatic part deserves a TL;DR version:

  • I entered high school feeling generally optimistic and friendly
  • I had fun with classmates and did well in my courses
  • I met a guy who gave me a taste of romance
  • Guy turned out to be a jerk then all kinds of violence happened
  • Rumors circulated, my reputation was ruined
  • My academic focus worsened, I lost my self-esteem
  • One of my childhood best friends accused me of undermining her and then kicked me out of her life
  • I survived

Because of that, by the time I was almost done with senior year all I wanted was to get out of that god-forsaken place and hide from the community. It’s kinda sad that I was probably the most excited one to graduate but for the wrong reason. Nevertheless, the negative aspects of my high school life were exclusive to me, and are by no means a generalization of the Pisay experience (I know for a fact that the other students loved theirs). Fortunately there were silver linings that made the experience worth it for me as well:

  • I enjoyed being involved in clubs that promote social science, robotics, and astronomy
  • I hold a special place in the hearts of my favorite teachers
  • I met a few lovely people who eventually turned into life friends
  • I got used to living independently
  • I got drafted into the math training pool and represented my section/school in math contests
  • My college admission exam scores were in the 99th percentile for all tests and I passed the advanced placement exam for my degree program without having to study much
  • I breezed through the first two years of college because most of the courses were already taken up in the last two years of high school
  • I got used to being in a stressful environment
  • My interest in science and technology research grew (which I plan to cultivate in the near future)


UPDATE (12/23/15): After listening to my mentor’s stories about his Pisay experience, rewatching Pisay the Movie after 8.5 years, and reflecting a lot lately, I finally found the courage to forgive. I hold no more hard feelings against the people responsible for the bitter memories, my naive past self included. I’ve recently started passively reconnecting with the community I used to avoid for years, and look forward to attending an alumni homecoming even if I’ve always thought never. πŸ™‚